Lately, I’ve been seeing calls of “Gamers are dead” and “Gamers don’t have to be your audience”, etc. The primary assertion for many of these articles is that gaming is no longer or no longer needs to be a “white heterosexual, male” dominated space. I’m not going to address the misconception that gaming is a white man’s world because, quite frankly, it’s absurd. Ultimately these people are saying that demographics have shifted and that games being made no longer have to sell to gamers.
What they fundamentally failed to understand is that the term gamer was never exclusive. The term gamer just means that gaming is your hobby and you draw enjoyment from it. Just like pro-gamer means gaming is your job and you (hopefully) make money doing it. Gaming was never limited to hetero white men; it was just limited to gamers. Yet these calls have persisted, many saying that the concept of being a gamer must die so that the medium can grow as an art. This is ultimately a false choice, we’ve never had to choose between “gamers” or “artistic” games.
However it is interesting what happens when you do put forward the notion that gamers are no longer the audience of games. Suddenly you don’t need good games. Games that are fun to play, to be critically acclaimed, or for gamers to even like the game. All you need is a game that is “artistic” and has a message, you can even eschew such things as programming and character models. Redefine games to include interactive novels and things with no actual game play. You ultimately can undo all the work the games industry has done, crafting and developing game play mechanics. All you have to do is get a critic to proclaim your game genius and you’re golden.
It’s similar to current modern art. You don’t need skill and technical mastery of your chosen medium, you just need a critic and a vapid audience to agree that something is good. This ultimately is why some dislike the idea of gamers and want it dead. If gamers are dead they don’t have to be critical of games from a gamers perspective. Because gamers are no longer their audience.
Fortunately gamers are not dead, gamers are more populous now than ever. The notion that gamers need to die in order for games to “grow up” as a medium is absurd. In order to sell a game to gamers all you need is a good game. I know making a good game is hard and a lot of work but here is what is great about gamers. They don’t care if your game is about objectivism, feminism, Christianity, authoritarianism, war or climate change! It doesn’t matter as a gamer will pick up and play any game they deem good and usually does so without any prejudice towards the message of the game.
Want to spread a message be it feminism, patriotism, atheism, Christianity, anything at all, to an audience that will give it a relatively fair shake? Make a good game and you’ll see discussions of your work’s message all over the internet from APGNation to 8chan. Gamers aren’t the people you should be trying to get rid of if you want gaming to grow up. They should be the people you’re hoping to attract. You want to tackle serious social and economic problems? You want people to think about them, talk about them and internalize them? Make a game. I know creating a video game that is not only good but successful and noteworthy is not easy. The game market is flooded but gamers are smart and they love finding new good games.
Gamers didn’t have to be dead for the following games to be made:
“A charming, beautiful, and elegantly designed modern point and click adventure game.” -Double Fine Productions
“It’s Metroid with a different set of questions for the player to answer: ‘How will this plant react to these conditions and to this creature?’” –Rock Paper Shotgun
“One of the strongest debut titles from a new studio I’ve ever played. My 2011 GOTY is an action adventure where your every move is narrated to you.” —Total Biscuit
“All in all, Cave Story is an incredible game that I’m sure I will be playing again and again for the rest of my life. It succeeds at telling a great story, providing fantastic run-and-gun gameplay, and a huge world to explore, and it does so with a style and technique all its own.” –Destructoid
“An indie darling that’s damn intriguing. A depressing game of ascertaining facts, discerning lies, and trying not to die of bureaucracy.” –Jim Sterling
“One of the best “rogue like” games ever made. its fun, its quirky, and its cheap. Its a must play.”–Boogie2988
“This is a turn-based strategy game about getting humanity to survive until 2200.” —Extra Credits
“A classic RPG in the 8-bit style in which curiously, Cthulhu attempts to be the hero. Kinda…” —Total Biscuit
“I’m already liking this character more than I’ve liked any other character in this entire generation of gaming.. and he’s a rectangle.” —Nerd Cubed
“…masterfully blends music, art, storytelling and gameplay in deeply poetic ways that you just don’t see very often.” —IGN
At the end of the day gamers don’t care what your game is. Gamers don’t go “oh that game is about …… I won’t play it” for any game out there. All gamers have ever cared about is if it’s fun. The best part is that even among gamers fun is not a static thing. I’m a story over game play person myself. I’m very forgiving if a game has a story I enjoy. Others are pure mechanics nerds who love what they perceive as mechanical genius. Fun is a personal definition and if you think the current market isn’t catering to a particular audience? Get a team together, fire up a Kickstarter and make a game. Don’t call for the death of gamers to make room for the game you want. And if you’re one of those people out there that wants gamers dead, just remember gamers don’t die they respawn.
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